Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"I'm Not Pretty"

This past Saturday, my mom brought a Christmas gift over for each of our kids. After opening them, little Joy was sad. Assuming it was because she received clothes rather than a new doll or another toy on her list, we gave her the 'need to be grateful talk' and moved on with the night.

Right before bedtime I found myself with Joy, who still was not herself, and asked what was wrong. Then 10 days before her 5th birthday, my little Princess says to me, "I'm not pretty." I was shocked to say the least and our conversation continued.

She was wanting a new green dress because she's not pretty when it's red. An unthankful heart wasn't the reason for her sadness earlier in the day. No, it was the result an issue many of us struggle with, our looks. As someone who's lost that battle my entire life my heart broke as I listened to my sweet, beautiful little girl say, "I'm not pretty."

She was crying and so was I as I tried to assure her of her beauty, which starts with her innocent, tender, loving heart. With her big blue eyes focused on mine she listened intently, but as I finished she said, "But Mom sometimes I get mad."

I agreed with her and assured her sometimes Mom gets mad too. She knew that!! So I asked her, "Joy do you still love me even when I'm mad?" She said yes, but she didn't like it and I told her that's kind of how it is with God too. He doesn't like it when we have an ugly heart or a bad attitude, but He still loves us and knows we are beautiful. I told her it didn't matter what color her dress was she is and always will be my pretty little Princess!! She smiled and went to brush her teeth...

Though the conversation came to an end for her, my mind continued to work. How could my little preschooler be struggling with the way she looks already? In a way I was shocked, Job is an amazing Dad who loves to compliment all of the kids and always acknowledges her "look at me" moments. At the same time I was also hurt, I've lived much of my life with those three words echoing in my mind. I've just rarely had the courage to voice them.

So as we headed to bed, I caught Job up on the story and he simply asked, "Why would she think like that already?" Initially I had no answer, but thru the night it was as if God would give me one - "as I spoke truth to her, He was able to speak it to me."

Today I encourage you to take a minute and think about your kids, the love you have for them and the eyes you see them with and imagine God, your Father feeling the same way about you. Now that's a gift!!

Here's my pretty princess with her new red dress -

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Face your fears...Live your dreams!

In my last post I shared a quote from my basketball days and how it no longer just pertained to sports, but also my walk of faith. The other day another motto from the days gone by came back to mind - "Face your fears, live your dreams." Back then the words meant I had to get past the fear of lifting weights with the boys if I wanted to get stronger as an athlete. Along with moving past the worry of what everyone would think and skip the party so I wouldn't risk eligibility for the team. You get the idea...

But again God is using those motivational sayings to encourage me in the game of life. Only know the fears at times seem bigger and the dream really isn't mine if that makes any sense. Let me explain...

As a child and a teen we all dream of what we will do and who we will become - I envisioned a nice little family and a successful championship winning coaching career. I do have a nice family that grew again this year, but aside from a game or two a year and teaching my 4 year old to dribble basketball is gone. And really not even that many years ago I had an idea of what I thought I wanted my life to look like, but I'm beginning to realize it's not those dreams that matter.

No, my dream has changed - I no longer see myself doing some specific task, being a certain person or reaching a goal. Instead my dream is doing the will of my Father, which means my fears must be faced. I'm beginning to realize being the only girl in the weight room really is no big deal!!

But at the same time, though my dream has changed in a way my fears remain the same. I'm afraid of being different than the crowd, I worry about what others will think and I fear failing, no longer just the team, but God too.

I believe God has reminded me of this quote to help me remember how I faced fears in the past and really did see dreams come true. The concept applied to a game and I'm sure it will to life too!!

I'd love to hear about your dreams and even your fears (remember we all have them!!) Just leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why can't it be easy??

Back in the day basketball was my life and I had all the shirts to prove it! "Basketball is life the rest is just details!" "When I die bury me with my basketball!" and even one with the 10 commandments of basketball. I'm not saying sports are bad, actually they provide many lessons for life, but in my case it was an idol and that's not a good thing, but that's a whole nother story...

So back to the question at hand, during my high school years we often had poems and motivational quotes posted in the lockerroom and last week one came back to mind, "Basketball is supposed to be hard, if it was easy everyone would do it!" As a team we prided ourselves on this statement. It wasn’t easy running until you could no longer move, losing games you were supposed to win or dealing with mistakes you made, but we loved the game and there was satisfaction in doing something not everyone could do.

And really when it was a challenge is when I felt success. The games that were close were the ones I enjoyed the most - it was when I had to give my all that I felt the best. Was it easy? No. Hard? Yes! Worth it? For sure!!

Now though my playing days have long since passed me by and it’s even been a few years since I was the coach the quote I shared above has come back to mind. You see this last week I’ve been preparing for a book talk about my recently published book (for those who don’t know it’s a personal look at spiritual mentoring and the role it’s played in my life) at my hometown (very small hometown I might add) library.

Anyway in the days leading up to the event I felt myself getting nervous and at times fear would set in, so much so that late last week I remember asking God, “Why can’t it just be easy?” Instantly I recalled the quote above, but this time I wasn’t thinking about basketball, but instead my walk of faith. Honestly at the time it wasn’t the most comforting thought, in a way I think I’d been holding out hope that eventually following God and going where He leads would become easier.

Last night the event was held - I survived and God spoke. I pray He spoke thru me, but I know He spoke to me. As I drove home encouraged by what He had done this quote came back to mind - perhaps this is a stretched analogy, but bare with me here, in a way life is like a game, but in this league there are only two teams - God’s and the opposition. We’re either for Him or against Him and if you’re on His team there is no greater coach.

As the year comes to an end my mind tends to reflect and I’m amazed at what God has asked me and strengthened me to do. But that’s what makes Him, “Coach of the Year” again and again - He believes in me, equips me, encourages me, gives me the gameplan, prepares me and leads me into battle. Though there’s no headlines in the sports section or championship trophies on the shelf, He’s reminded me one day this game will end and the heavenly rewards will be eternal!

Back in the day I loved a game, which pushed me through the pain and made it worth it, but today I love my heavenly Father, who carries me through pain and says I am worth it! Yes the competition is fierce at times and this season that never ends is definitely not a cake walk, but someday I will take a victory lap!! Thank you Lord!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Choices at Christmas

Do I buy him a race track or farm set? Her a doll or dishes? Do we open gifts on Christmas eve or Christmas morning? Do we go to his parents or mine? One piece of fudge or two??

Christmas can be a time of choices - gifts, decorations, parties, food, the list goes on and at times it can be overwhelming, but it’s not just the holidays when decisions need to be made. No, daily life does that all on its own. We are constantly making decisions - some big and others small, but they are decisions just the same. Sometimes they are ones we expect and have come to make with relative ease and yet others it can be a choice that is a challenge or one we didn’t see coming at all.

Recently I found myself in a place of pain, a place that brings choices as well. It wasn’t that long ago, so the memories are quite fresh. From the outside all looked fine - a new baby, a healthy family, a newly released book, the opportunity to have been part of a wonderful women’s retreat and on and on. Life was good, but still I found myself slipping back into a place where I had once been. I could smell the storm coming - the storm of depression that is.

And though it wasn’t a holiday, that situation created choices too - do I admit the pain or appear like my life is perfect? Do I accept help or pretend I’m super Mom and do it myself? Do I internalize everything or open up? Do I trust others or turn to God for help? Believe me for awhile I made the wrong choice each and every time - someone would ask ‘how are things going?’ I’d respond, “crazy at times, but it’s alright.” They’d ask, “do you need a meal?” and I’d think why’s that necessary when I’m taking food to the field. Occasionally I’d drop a hint that I was a bit overwhelmed but when others didn’t pick up on it my mind would think if it’s not obvious to them, the pain must not be real. Instead I’d think, I’m just weak, which only lead to me closing up and feeling worse.

I’ve been in the pit of depression before and it’s never a place you want to be, but this time it was different. First of all, thankfully I didn’t fall as far as I have in the past and it wasn’t a constant state. This time I seemed so aware of what was going on, but that didn’t make things any easier. Though I knew the down times wouldn’t last forever some days were hard. But yet pride won for awhile as I put on a smile and tried to keep it all together. Eventually though I admitted things weren’t the way they should be. I was exhausted, easily upset and a bit overwhelmed with life. I felt weak, hypocritical and like it was all my fault. And worst of all I was doubting God and the plan He had for me.

Once I finally shared a bit of my struggle with a friend she shared some words that went to my heart - “You have to park your mind on what is true and worthy of praise. The enemy wants to consume you with disappointment and sadness but you don’t have to let him. It’s up to us my friend - only you and I can decide who we will listen to.” Now I’m not saying the battle with depression is always won by making a choice, at one point in my life medication was the answer, but this time the choice was mine. The words of Psalm 40 came to mind, “I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

These words didn’t magically make things better, but they helped me focus on who is in control. And as I focused on Him in this time of pain He continued to work in me and make Himself real. That doesn’t change the circumstances of my life right now - the lack of sleep continues, the mountain of laundry grows and the work never ends, but His strength lifts me up.

And one morning as I laid in bed praying for the very thing, He put a verse on my heart - John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten Son that anyone who believes in Him shall not parish but have eternal life.” It’s a verse I’ve known for years and one even my kids can recite, but on that morning I looked at it in a new way - God didn’t just love the world, He loved me and ladies He loves you too. I’d understood that for years, but still the choice is mine to believe it. Do I believe He loves me enough to give up His son? Do you?

I do and perhaps you do to, but my recent struggle has shown me that it’s not a one time decision - daily we have a choice. Revelations 3:20 shares Jesus words, “Look here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” He is there but it’s our choice if we let Him in. Just as the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can cause us to lose focus of what Christmas is all about, the demands and duties of life can cause us to forget who life is all about.

So today before you are faced with another holiday decision, I encourage you to take a minute and forget about the money and the gifts you’ll be giving, but instead focus on what matters and think about what you are willing to receive. In a few weeks we’ll have presents under our trees, but I pray you remember the only gift that lasts is found on the cross. As the chaos gets crazier and the kids excitement grows remember over 2000 years ago God so loved Wendy, Al and Anna (insert your name) enough to send His son to be born in a stable and die on a cross to give the gift of eternal life. Whether it’s in the stress of the season or the drudgery of life don’t forget He stands at the door and knocks and like my friend said, “the decision is ours.” Make the choice to let Him be your guest this Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Unknown

Have you ever had to wait for news? I know the obvious answer, but as I'm in the midst of waiting my mind has focused on the very idea. I've found myself in a time of waiting many times and sometimes the result has been I what expected, others it's been even better than I anticipated and yet there have been times when the news was, for lack of a better word, bad.

Now I find myself waiting again, this time it's not for news about me personally, but instead I'm waiting to hear back from a loved one about tests from last week. And as she explained there is a best case scenario and on the flip-side a worst case scenario.

Like me, I'm sure her mind has been wondering over the weekend playing out the endless what if game. I know I've done that a time or two. But this morning as worry tended to creep in and thoughts focused on the worst it seemed God gave me peace. Regardless of what news comes, it will be the best case scenario because it's the one He has planned.

As we face the unknown, which really is what we do each and every day, we (including myself) must trust God is in control. I know sometimes that is easier said than done, but yet that is what faith is all about. Romans 8:28 reminds us, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

God has a purpose for the pain and in the end even a reason for us to sit and wait in the midst of the unknown. As my mind thought about this earlier today, the DJ on the radio was talking about the Christmas story. At this time of the year it's easy to think about it all in a glamorous way, but take a minute to really think about all that took place. Riding on a donkey while being 9 months pregnant...do I need to say more??

Think about the unknown that Mary faced. The angel said to her, "You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his kingdom will never end." Can you imagine the thoughts that went through Mary's mind?

She was given a glimpse of the future for her son, but still the logistics of how it would all come to be were unknown. And really in a way, the same is true for us today. If we are followers of Christ we know in the end we will be with Him, but on our journey to His heavenly home there will be twists and turns and ups and downs. There will be moments of pain, days of doubt and situations that we don't understand, but just as God was with Mary during the trip to Bethlehem and later on the journey through Jerusalem, God is with us too.

As you face the unknown - whether it's your financial situation, in a wait for tests results or thoughts about the world in which your kids will live remember it's all unknown to us, but God knows. He is the one who knows the number of hairs on your head and loves you enough to send His son to die, give Him with what's unknown to you and trust Him to fill you with the peace that begins with Him.